Career Choices

Wilma Gillis, Chief Clinical Anesthetist

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Chief Clinical Anesthetist
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Wilma Gillis, Chief Clinical Anesthetist


University of Michigan, School of Nursing, BSN in 1975
University of Michigan Medical School, Program of Nurse Anesthesia, Certificate of Anesthesia in 1983


Certified Registered Nurse Anesthetist since January of 1984
Advanced Cardiac Life-Support, ongoing recertification
Registered Nurse in the State of Wisconsin since 1983
Advanced Practice Nurse Prescriber

Career Description

I am the chief anesthetist, supporting and supervising approximately 30 clinical anesthetist—both CRNAs and anesthesiologist assistants-- in a fine institution with a distinguished academic faculty of anesthesiologists.  Twenty percent of my work involves some aspect of administration, while 80% involves providing direct anesthesia care within a team concept of anesthesia care delivery.  Anesthetists in this academic department work under the supervision of anesthesiologists (medical doctors), providing all types of anesthesia care to a complex and diverse patient population.  Anesthetists have the exciting opportunity to teach medical students and non-anesthesiology residents within the clinical setting.  We occasionally teach through both clinical settings and lectures to visiting students, nursing staff and others.   We are able to interview and consult on our patients preoperatively, allay their apprehensions, provide direct anesthesia care, assist in planning for their care during surgery and assist with pain relief after surgery, as well as evaluating the success and patient satisfaction through a post-operative visit.  Every day is new and different, as are the individual patients for which we are privileged to care. 

I enjoy working with the orthopedic surgeons at the University of Wisconsin and seeing the outcomes achieved.  Many life-improving procedures are performed by the excellent, progressive orthopedic surgeons.  I have great respect for the quality of work we do at the
University of Wisconsin.

Historically, I have been involved with the Comprehensive Cancer Center, providing anesthesia sedation for a cancer research program, Whole Body Hyperthermia.  I was able to travel to European Cancer Centers to assist the principal investigator, Ian Robins, MD, PhD, to export that technology and therapy options to centers in Germany and Holland.

In the OR

Anesthesia care has become exponentially safer, since I began my study of this specialty in the early 1980s.  Technologic advances, improved monitoring and education and improvements in drugs and therapies have made the anesthesia experience less risky for patients to undergo.  The greatest recent improvements in my specialty include fewer undesirable side effects, less morbidity (disease) and mortality (deaths) and more rapid return to pre-operative comfort and functionality.  It is imperative that patients reveal a true health profile during the pre-operative evaluation phase to enable the anesthesia provider to plan for the safest, most satisfactory anesthetic that is possible for each individual. 

I love helping patients be less anxious and more psychologically accepting of the surgical experience, while trusting our anesthesia teams during the surgical procedure.  In the future, I expect more computer-driven patient monitoring, care documentation and less invasive surgical procedures.  I look to the future for improved, less invasive surgical options that allow a faster recovery and even better anesthesia medications and anesthetic techniques to more precisely tailor our care to each individual’s needs.